Profile Lachy Hulme
Hulme learned so much about Frank Packer while playing his son Kerry that he easily slipped into the role as the senior Packer, writes Debbie Schipp.
POWER GAMES: THE PACKER MURDOCH STORY Sunday, 8.30pm, Nine
SIR Frank Packer was a formidable business force with a Herculean temper.
A street-fighter who relished his battles with Rupert Murdoch, despised weakness, and found it easier to show his love for his dog than he did to his sons, Clyde and Kerry.
But Lachy Hulme, the man who plays Sir Frank in Channel 9’s hard-hitting miniseries Power Games: The Packer Murdoch Story has a summation that would have made the man himself bristle.
‘‘The fundamental difference between Kerry Packer and his father was that Kerry was a supremely confident man, and Sir Frank was an incredibly insecure man,’’ Hulme says.
Realising that, Hulme says, meant he was able to shed the Kerry Packer he played to such acclaim in last year’s Howzat! Kerry Packer’s War, and become his fearsome father, Sir Frank, for Power Games.
‘‘When I was playing Kerry in Howzat! I actually read a lot about Sir Frank,’’ Hulme says.
‘‘All the bad aspects of Kerry – I had sort of computed into my head that that was essentially his father.
‘‘So initially playing Frank didn’t interest me. It felt like I’d played Frank because I’d played the darker side of Kerry. Then I realised that fundamental difference.
‘‘Sir Frank was terrified of people’s opinions of him. He had a terrible inability to communicate with his family, and he substituted locker room antics in lieu of love and affection towards people. ‘‘He was a smart businessman, as Kerry was. But far more ruthless. ‘‘His need to outdo, outlast and out-think everyone was a matter of life and death to him.’’
Spanning the years from 1960 to 1972, Power Games is the story of Sir Frank’s battle to run a ‘‘boy publisher’’ named Rupert Murdoch (played by Patrick Brammall) out of the media game.
History shows Murdoch had no plans to go away, setting up epic rivalry, and ultimately, a mutual respect.
‘‘In the story we are telling, along comes this young fellow Rupert Murdoch, and Frank can see what Murdoch’s going to become even before Murdoch can,’’ Hulme says.
‘‘It’s this incredible tug-of-war within Frank because part of him really wishes Murdoch was his son.
‘‘And the other part of him sees that Murdoch, as with everybody else, is, within Frank’s mind, a threat. Everyone is the enemy, including his own sons.’’
Hulme was intrigued by the early relationship between Sir Frank and Murdoch.
‘‘There’s a feeling there was almost a mentor/student relationship (between Packer and Murdoch) in some respects,’’ he says. ‘‘But make no mistake, this was a fight to the death.’’ Hulme believes it brought out the competitive best in both men. ‘‘These two men were made for each other,’’ he says. ‘‘If Rupert Murdoch didn’t exist, Frank Packer would have invented him as the perfect adversary.’’
Sir Frank’s fearsome inability to outwardly show love for his sons fascinated Hulme.
‘‘He loved Clyde and he loved Kerry even though he could not demonstrate that in any conventional sense,’’ he says.
‘‘Because of his inability to engage like a normal father, he was only truly happy when the three Packer men were engaged in this battle with Murdoch.’’
Sir Frank’s softer side surfaces only with his two wives – first Lady Gretel Packer, Kerry and Clyde’s mother (who passed away in 1960), and his second wife, Florence – and his dog, a stray called Henry, whom he lavishes with kisses. It’s an indulgence his children could only dream about.